Georgian Church Slams Law on Religious Groups’ Legal Status

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi
6/7/2011

A legislative amendment allowing religious minority groups to be registered as legal entities of public law “contravenes interests of both the Church and the country,” the Georgian Orthodox Church said in a statement late on July 5.

“We believe, that this law will bring negative consequences in the nearest future and the authorities will be responsible for this,” the statement reads.

Parliament passed the draft amendment to the civil code with its second and third, final reading on July 5 amid calls from the Georgian Church and opposition parties not to hurry with approval of the proposal in order to give more time to public discussions. Another key argument of the Georgian Church was that such law should be passed only in parallel to granting to the Georgian Orthodox Church the same legal status in Georgia’s other neighboring countries – the focus in this particular case was done on Armenia.

In between the parliamentary votes on the issue on July 5, a senior ruling party lawmaker Pavle Kublashvili held talks with senior clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The Georgian Church said in the statement late n July 5, that talks were held upon the initiative of the ruling party, which proposed amended version of the draft. The draft, however, still contained a provision allowing religious minority groups to be registered as legal entities of public law, the Patriarchate said.

“The Patriarchate was still pushing for a proposal to suspend approval of the legislative amendment, to hold public debates and to reach a public consensus on the issue. Then [the Patriarchate] has offered a compromise option taking into account international experience,” the statement reads.

“It was not possible to reach an agreement, which is very regrettable, because already passed law contravenes interests of both the Church and the country,” the Patriarchate said.

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